School initiatives

Stand up! Speak out! 2002
Anti-racism education conference

Anti-racism education conference 2002On 7th September 2002, the NSW Department of Education and the NSW Teachers Federation for the first time jointly hosted an anti-racism education conference for educators and students. The conference which was held at the Australian Technology Park, Redfern, aimed to explore the ways in which Australia and Australians represent themselves, who we are and who we want to become.

The conference was opened by the Minister of Education and Training, The Honourable John Watkins MP and Maree O'Halloran, President of the NSW Teachers Federation. Keynote speakers Professor Andrew Jakubowicz from the University of Technology, Sydney and Linda Burney, Director-General of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs addressed the conference themes of Messages and Partnerships. Other conference features included an expo of anti-racism resources and strategies, a performance by Ashcroft High School students on Reconciliation and seventeen workshops. Four of the top rated workshops were facilitated by students including Cooling Conflicts by students from Sir Joseph Banks High School, James Cook Boys High School and Oxley Park Public School; Landed by graduates of Warrawong Intensive English Centre; Puzzle No Longer by students from Hurlstone Agricultural High School and Baggage by students from Miller TAFE.

The highlight of the conference was a youth panel hosted by Julie McCrossin which explored the personal experiences of racism experienced by young people and their involvement in anti-racism initiatives. The seven young people on the panel came from a range of backgrounds and educational experiences and included secondary, TAFE, university students and young people in the workforce from Aboriginal and refugee backgrounds and those from language backgrounds other than English.

Summations of the conference were delivered by Mr Angelo Gavrielatos, Senior Vice President of the NSW Teachers Federation and Dr Alan Laughlin, Deputy Director General (Schools) of the NSW Department of Education and Training. Both Mr Gavrielatos and Dr Laughlin spoke of how they had been personally affected by what they had seen and heard at the conference including the fact that the life expectancy of an Aboriginal man in Wilcannia is under 37 years of age and the fact that students in Australia on temporary protection visas are in danger of having their application for refugee status rejected.

Five issues were identified as requiring action:

  1. The introduction of compulsory pre-service training for teachers in multicultural and Aboriginal education with particular emphasis on anti-racism education.
  2. The ongoing development of programs that develop student leadership skills, in particular for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
  3. The need for Government to reaffirm its commitment to multicultural education through the release of a new Department multicultural education policy or plan.
  4. The need to provide differential support to refugee students, asylum seekers and holders of temporary protection visas. In particular, the need to exempt temporary protection visa holders from payment of tuition fees in TAFE.
  5. The need for an increase in the number of English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers.

Over 400 people attended the conference including representatives from school districts, TAFE institutes, the NSW Student Representative Council, parent and principal organisations, community groups and officers of the NSW Department of Education and Training and the NSW Teachers Federation. An overwhelming majority of participants rated the conference and its contents as good or excellent. Some of the participants' comments included:

"The inclusion of young people was an inspiration. They give us hope for a better Australia."
"Keep the momentum going. We need to move forward and develop strategies in each district and institute to combat and eliminate racism at the local level."
"Thoroughly enjoyable and more importantly stirring. I am leaving with my convictions not only intact, but strengthened."

Conference follow up activities are planned for 2003.